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City, county to mull incentives to bring 200-plus jobs

Thursday, September 6, 2012 by Michael Kanin

The City of Austin and Travis County will soon consider whether to extend economic development incentives to HID Global Corp.a company promising to bring Travis County more than 200 jobs over a 10-year period.


This news came as the Office of Texas Governor Rick Perry announced Wednesday that state has offered the Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer of secure identity products $1.9 million from the Texas Enterprise Fund to build a manufacturing and distribution center in Austin, contingent on finalization of local incentives. As part of the proposed deal, Austin could offer a 10-year “performance-based grant” of just more than $920,000. HID has also applied for a property tax rebate through Travis County’s Planning and Budget Office.


The average annual salary of a prospective Austin HID employee would be $51,398, according to a press release issued by the city’s Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office.


Members of the Austin City Council will hear a presentation on the economic incentive package on Sept. 12, just after they finish their deliberations on the city’s FY2013 budget. The timing – a request for nearly $1 million in incentives on the heels of a likely tax increase – could complicate matters. Council members will vote on the package on Sept. 27.


The Travis County Commissioners Court will deliberate over their portion of the incentives after the city makes its decision. At least one commissioner, Sarah Eckhardt, expressed concerns about the deal. Eckhardt told In Fact Daily that she would prefer that any economic development incentives involving the county be delivered to companies engaged in “socially beneficial” activities – “the kind of projects the private market doesn’t support,” she says – and/or efforts that would offer a significant number of jobs to Travis County residents from “disadvantaged” ZIP codes.


The county is working on a standard economic development incentives policy that would cover how it approaches such agreements from a tax abatement perspective.


Eckhardt expressed similar concerns during the deliberations over the economic incentives package that eventually helped bring Apple’s Americas Operations Center to Austin. When her concerns were not satisfied, she voted against the county’s package, which was approved in April.


Eckhardt told In Fact Daily that she could well vote against a tax rebate for HID if she didn’t see a strong commitment to hiring from economically disadvantaged communities. However, she added that, “I have a higher bar, I think, than the rest of the court.”


HID manufactures a range of security controls including those that control access to facilities and “highly secure government ID,” according to its website. HID’s proposed $35 million facility would employ 239 workers and serve as the company’s future operations center for North America, the governor’s office said.

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